Tallahassee Considers Banning Conversion Therapy

Nov 18, 2019

Advocates gathered outside Hotel Duval to protest Freedom Speaks, an organization that supports conversion therapy.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

Tallahassee’s City Commission is looking into whether it can ban conversion therapy locally. It comes as two bills pending before the legislature would block the practice statewide.

LGBTQ advocate Lakey Love is pushing the city to pass an ordinance to ban conversion therapy. The practice tries to change someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“The policy ordinance that we’re asking you all to put forward onto the schedule next commission meeting demonstrates how all of these organizations – These major medical and psychological organizations are speaking out against this,” Lakey told the commission during it's most recent meeting. 

In 1998, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a statement opposing conversion therapy. It says the practice poses significant harm to patients and should be prohibited.  APA has continued to reaffirm this statement throughout the years.

In 1990, the World Health Assembly (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. In 2012, the organization said that conversion therapy represented a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.

“It’s important for our entire community, especially people who have been victims of this sort of thing that we stand with them,” Commissioner Jeremy Matlow said during an interview with WFSU. 

After hearing public comments, the commission favored  of considering an ordinance to ban conversion therapy. However, city attorney Cassandra Jackson said the proposal could be unconstitutional. Communities across Florida have passed similar ordinances, but Jackson says it could spell legal trouble. One judge in Tampa overturned the city’s conversion therapy in October, and Jackson recommends waiting to see what the legislature will do when lawmakers convene in January.

Still, the Tallahassee City Commission appears to be moving forward with Mayor John Dailey saying, “I am in full support of a complete ban of conversion therapy full-stop."

Several LGBTQ advocacy groups are joining together to host a town hall to talk about the issue. The event will be held Tuesday at the Florida People’s Advocacy Center at 6:30 p.m.